Sunday, March 27, 2022

New Post-Apocalyptic 'Team': the Night Stalkers

    The Night Stalkers patrol the rubble of a ruined town in the post-Apocalyptic future
I am not 100% sold on my name for this new gang or "team" as the Fistful of Lead rules call forces in their skirmish game. Don't get me wrong, I think "Night Stalkers" sounds really cool, and it will probably be what I end up using. However, I am open for suggestions for these high-tech, uniformed fighters. They all wear helmets with what appear to be night vision goggles attached to them. There are small bits of armor, as well, including a suggestion of kevlar or something underneath the outer uniform. So, I picture these guys as being a fairly well-organized group. The members are probably former military or law enforcement banding together to carve out a niche of territory to protect their families and friends.

    The Night Stalkers are painted in matching uniforms and equipment, so they are fairly well supplied
The figures come from Battle Valor Games, and are part of the former Sgt. Major Miniatures line that I like so much. The poses may be slightly different, but they definitely have a uniform appearance. In a skirmish game where each figure may have different traits, this means that I'm likely going to have to write their names on the edges of their bases for players to keep them straight. I have been threatening to do that for awhile, and likely will go whole hog into it soon. I've seen other gamers photos where they do that and I don't think it detracts from the look of the game.

    It took awhile (and several layers) before I came up with a tone that I was happy with for the helmets
Their base uniform was done in craft paint "Khaki," and I maintained that brownish theme throughout with tan backpacks, dark brown gloves, and ivory packs and pouches. I struggled most with the metallic bits -- the helmet and knee pads. I purchased a "brown metallic" craft paint, but still thought it was too bright of a gold tone. I did two black washes over it before I pronounced myself happy. The end result in person looks very San Francisco 49ers dark gold, in case it is hard to tell in the photos. For the firearms, I used Iron Wind Metals Steel with highlights of silver or gun metal craft paint.

   The color scheme was not intended to be a camouflage, but I like how it "blends in" on the table
Some of the accents were done in brighter colors to stand out more on the miniature. The "eyes" of the goggles were done in red with a tiny dot of pink in the middle. The main part of the goggles and attachments to the helmet were in Iron Wind Steel, again. Finally, the miniatures had patches on each shoulder. I did the right patch in orange with a white vertical stripe. The left was done as a nod to the Ukrainians fighting off the Russian invasion in the news, today. It was done in the yellow blue of their flag. I'm not saying these guys are Ukrainians in my post-Apocalyptic games, just that I was inspired by the actual defenders' bravery and wanted to commemorate it here.  

    Although this is not the vision I have for my games, this supplement still has some interesting sounding rules
So, what's next? I have one more "team" of miniatures to paint up to reach my target six. We typically have 6-7 of us show up on Sunday evenings, so I shouldn't need more than that. I know a couple players may want to use their own troops, but I think for the first game I am going to want to use mine to keep a coherent look on the tabletop. Afterwards, if they want to sub in their own team once they see the "flavor" of my post-Apocalyptic world, I would be open to it. As mentioned before, my games are looking for a Mad Max meets the Terminator feel. I don't want the mutations with multiple arms, psionic powers, etc., from Gamma World or Mutants and Death Ray Guns. As such, I am still considering buying Wiley Games' "Wasteland Warriors" title, which apparently goes heavily in on the mutants. However, I hear it also has a nice section on scavenging for supplies, which is definitely the world I am looking to create for my games.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Moors Drive Off Strange New Christian Military Order

    My Moorish cavalry poised to counter-attack Ted's Order of Crusading Knights
Majik Ibn Battuta al-Waqaa stroked his beard as he squinted across the blinding, snow-covered plains. Odd that the Christians would choose winter's coldest day -- and after a rare snowfall -- to launch an incursion into the lands of his lord, the Caliph of Cordoba. He had heard of a new Christian military order of knights forming, vowing to drive the followers of the Prophet from Andalusia. They called themselves The Order of the Holy Bear, and their blazons and crests featured snarling bears. "By the prophet's beard," Majik shouted, "they DO look like bears!"

The armor and barding of the knights made it appear if the Christians were riding bears rather than horses. Even Majik's cheetah Scirocco, padding at his horse's side, seemed fascinated by the appearance and approach of the Milites Christi. "No matter," Majik spoke to his commanders. "We men of Cordoba are nobly-born hunters one and all. We fear neither beast nor man! Ride, men of Cordoba!!"

    Ted's Milites Christi at top and my Moors deployed at bottom, ready for battle
My opponent for March's Saga game day at the Dragons Guildhall was Ted H, who was fielding a fairly new warband for him. He was playing his army as Milites Christi, though truth be told the miniatures were actually mostly 25mm Fantasy Dwarves. And indeed, the mounted troopers were dwarves mounted on bears, but I am always willing to show leeway to people fielding their armies with proxy troopers. I'd honestly rather play against a fantasy army posing as a historical one than an unpainted force - but that's just me...ha, ha! Ted had a LOT of those mounted bears, in fact -- three units of them! His force was composed of two units of 6 mounted hearthguard and one unit of 4. He also had two units of 8 warrior crossbow and his mounted general.

    The first Moorish toss of javelins is very successful, tumbling three knights from their saddles
I was fielding my Moors against him. I'd given Ted a choice of armies I'd brought for me to use and he selected the historical matchup of Milites Christi vs. Moors (both from the Age of Crusades book). In truth, I was happy to get the chance to field Majik and his army again. They are an incredibly fun and challenging army to play. My own mounted hearthguard with javelin are very vulnerable, being only armor 4 vs. both shooting and melee. A good volley or a hard enemy charge juiced up with Saga abilities could easily devastate one of my two 6-man units. So, I tend to shelter them behind my two units of warrior spear (both 8-man). Together with the levy archers, my Moors try to win the battle first with missile fire, and then charge home only when they see a vulnerable target.

    After pulling his cavalry back, Majik orders a wall of spearmen across their front to shelter them
This game would see those tactics brought to bear against an opponent who boldly charged into my spear wall time and again, seeking to batter it down with his knights. In keeping with his army's bravery, he had deployed all the way forward, well within the Long move (12") and javelin toss (6") of my Moorish cavalry. We decided to oblige Ted and galloped both units forward, hurling their javelins. Our first volley was very effective, downing three riders from their saddles. The next volley was less so, and killed only one. Still, one of his 6-man units was emasculated to 2-figures. A good start! We pulled the troopers back and then covered them up with a wall of spearmen stretching between the ruins on our left and the marsh in the center.  In the marsh, our archers had advanced and fired an ineffectual volley at the crossbowmen.

    Ted's crossbow volleys were even more successful as they winnowed my levy's ranks from 12 to 5
Irked, the Christian crossbowmen raised their deadly devices and sent a volley into the Moorish levy in the marsh. Despite playing Hasty Shot, which gives 2 bonus defense dice, we failed all saves. Ted advanced the unit again and fired another volley. We failed all of those rolls, too, and my 12-man unit had been whittled to five already. One Saga dice down (levy must be six figures or higher to generate a command and control Saga dice). The bearish grand master was not done, either. With a truly ursine roar, the unit of 4 mounted hearthguard galloped across the snowy field and slammed into one of my units of spear. Expecting this, we did our standard tactic of closing ranks and playing Forest of Spears, which gives three bonus defense dice. My horrible saving rolls continued, as Ted rolled six hits. Picking up 9 dice, I failed on all of them to roll a 4 or higher. Counting the levy unit's failures, I had just missed 18 consecutive 50% chances! I don't think I want to know the odds of this happening!!

    The Crusader knights followed up with a thundering charge against my Moorish spearmen
Majik's eyes widened as he saw his infantry being cut down and blood spattering the snow. He waved to his cavalry commanders, though, and the troopers paused to rest, then galloped forward, again. More volleys of javelins tumbled knights from their bear-disguised horses and the unit was slain to a man. My infantry had done little, but the Moorish troopers were once again being the right arm that I relied on in my battles. The second unit of infantry marched across to fill the gap left by their retreating companions, and once again, my cavalry rested behind their infantry wall, safe from immediate counter-attack. 

    With one spear unit devastated, the second takes it place walling off the enemy from the cavalry
On his turn, Ted brought over his remaining 6-man hearthguard unit and hurled it forward, as well. This was truly turning into a punch, counter-punch, type of fight. Once again, the Moorish warriors closed ranks and played Forest of Spears. Once again, our saves were below average, but at least now we were actually rolling some saves! Half the unit had been cut down, but at least at four figures they were still generating a Saga dice for me! 

    Unfazed, the knights charged again and drove back the second unit of Moorish spearmen
In addition, after the first two turns of rolling zero Rare dice for my command and control (and no Uncommons either on Turn 2!), I finally started to get some Rares on Turn 3. This gave me a lot more flexibility on movement (Perseverance is a great one - for one Uncommon die I get to move two units of either foot or mounted). After another brief rest, the valiant horsemen of Cordoba rode out to harry the bearish Christian riders. Once again, our darts found targets, though our first roll was horrible -- only two hits on 10 attack dice at 4+! The second unit's volley made up for it, and we continued to whittle away at the enemy knights until by turn 4 only one was left alive.

    After 3-4 turns of relentless javelin fire, the Moorish cavalry had killed all of the enemy knights
At this point, we could have simply held back from his two units of crossbow foot. We had definitely scored enough points by killing 15 hearthguard to win the game. However, on turn five, we had an amazing run of Rare dice rolls using Activation Pool. I looked at my board and counted the dice. We COULD launch one of our favorite Torrent of Iron charges. Majik signaled his orders to his faithful cavalry commanders and the first unit cantered ahead and cut down the remaining bear knight. With trumpets blaring, and ululations to Allah, the second unit thundered down on the closet unit of crossbowmen. The crossbowmen were Exhausted from their moving and shooting (plus the death of their brethren knights close by). This was my favorite tactic: a charge by my javelin-armed cavalry into an Exhausted unit. I planned on using two of his three fatigues to raise my own armor to 6 so he couldn't hit me...but wait! The wily bear had other plans!

    The Moorish cavalry were not done, though, and charged into and overran a unit of crossbowmen
In my impetuosity and haste, I had forgotten look at what Ted had queued up on his board. Oh no! He still had a dice on Spilt Blood on his board. That meant I would not be able to raise my armor above my starting level of 4. His sergeants would get their full attacks. My riders would be taking casualties here, for sure. My plan was to eliminate the unit, though. With Wholehearted (which grants 2 attack dice per enemy fatigue), my +1 for javelins in a charge, and using his fatigue, I would auto-hit with all 18 dice. It is fitting our final combat of the game was a bloody one. Four of my cavalry troopers were slain by their bear sergeants' valiant resistance, while all of their number went to Heaven. Victorious, but grimly silent at the loss of their friends, the noble cavalry of Cordoba pulled back one final time.

    The survivors of the Majik's warband gather out of the range of the remaining crossbow unit
There was some more maneuvering on the final turn of the game, but no significant casualties. I was not going to leave my troopers where they could suffer a volley from the remaining crossbow unit. I had pulled back my infantry, too, so I could keep them alive for victory points at the end. We called it a game, and the Moors had triumphed 17-6. We realized afterwards that we were supposed to keep track of victories in melee for victory conditions. We agreed it would not substantially alter the outcome. At best, that would have given Ted a couple more points and me another. 

The grand master of the Order of the Holy Bear led his sergeants from the field. As far as he could see, bright red patches marked the snow where Moor and Christian had fallen. This had been a bloody baptism for his new order of knights. Still, his men had fought well, and they still had their faith in Christ. They would return one day and drive the Unbelievers from the field, he vowed!

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Dozen Warlords Assemble at Dragons Guildhall for Spring Game Day

    Phil's Elephant was one of two that he fielded in his Sassanid Persian army against Bob B
The return of spring saw a surge in players at our monthly Saga game day at the Dragons Guildhall in Beavercreek, OH. More than a dozen attended to show off new armies, try out new variants, or get in some games with armies that haven't seen the tabletop in awhile. It was great to see Jim B able to make it out after several months away. He was excited to get out his Skraeling army, and usher some new players in a Skraeling vs. Skraeling matchup. Irv had arrived with his grandson with his own Skraeling army, and we've found "mirror image" games to be a great learning tool for new players.

    Phil and Bob B square off in the foreground of our 12+ players we had attend our Saga game day

Otherwise, we had a couple players attend their first game day at the Guildhall, including Phil who fielded Saga Ohio's first-ever Sassanid Persian army. Bob B got the opportunity to see how this new faction fights as he squared off against Phil in a historical matchup with his Age of Invasions Romans. Phil's army was gorgeous with the brightly-painted cataphracts and two elephants. After playing Bob, he said he was "hooked," and would be returning for more Saga soon.

    Sassanid Persian cataphracts charge against Bob B's Roman foot
If I am correct, this was also Benny's first time at one of our regular game days, though he has competed in tournaments at Game Table Adventures previously. He offered to field a Gallic army so that Michael C could get in a historical match with his Republican Romans. Michael's legion looked great on the tabletop and has me looking forward to the arrival of the final figures I need to field my own Romans. For the first time ever, I will be sending them off as a commission to be painted by Ted Bender. I know Andy S also runs Republican Romans, so who knows? Maybe one day we can field a Punic Wars campaign at Saga Ohio?

    Jim B's awesome Skraeling army with this totem miniatures ready to fight off a rival tribe
Jenny was looking forward to her second game with her new Eastern Princes army (also painted by Ted!). She matched up against Joe D's Vikings in Battle of Heroes. Jenny reported that Joe had a momentous turn using the Ragnarok advanced ability that spelled ruin for her army. Still, she's 1-1 with a brand new army and battle board, so that isn't bad!

    Michael C's Republican Roman legion advances against a dangerous army of Gauls
My opponent, Ted H, was also getting in a second game with a new battle board - the Milites Christi. I offered to play my Moors for a period (and perhaps historic?) matchup, and Ted accepted. I was glad he did because I had been wanting to play Majik Ibn Battuta al-Waqaa's Moors again. They are a very fun army to play. You have to maneuver well, and keep your vulnerable mounted hearthguard javelin men protected on the opponent's turn, otherwise you can lose your best troops easily to either enemy shooting or melee. I'll do another post with a detailed game report on that matchup.

    Joe D's Vikings advance against Jenny's Eastern Princes in the frozen north

The final game was when Phil's friend Brian popped in to watch the action. I offered up my loaner Viking army, and Adrian graciously offered to teach him in a learning game. So, we had six battles raging, with everyone having a good time, it appeared.

Unfortunately, my own game was Ted was so gripping that I did not get a chance to circulate and find out the details on all of the other games. Here's what I was able to record:

  • Bob S (helped by Jim B)'s Skraelings defeated Irv H (assisted by his grandson)'s Skraelings, 12-9.
  • Bob B's Romans tied against Phil's Sassanid Persians, 20-21.
  • Michael C's Republican Romans defeated Benny's Gauls, 28-25 in Ambush (?).
  • Joe D's Vikings defeated Jenny T's Eastern Princes, 12-8.
  • Mike D's Moors defeated Ted H's Milites Christi, 17-6.
  • Adrian and Brian's Viking matchup was a training game and they did record points.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

My First Command as Khan of the Mongols


    Much earlier than I expected, I got a chance to command a Mongol army in Saga recently!

Part of the reason that I chose to paint up a Mongol army and play it in Saga was because I felt it would be a difficult challenge. An all-mounted army is going to face serious issues on a tabletop battle board that includes significant amounts of terrain. In a standard "Clash of Warlords" game, the opponent will be able to place at least three pieces of terrain. They can also likely make them large and either "Uneven" or "Dangerous" terrain, which disadvantage mounted troops. On top of that, the composite bow (which more than half of my troops will use) is not exactly a world-beater in Saga. So, I was expecting some losses early on in my games.

    My own miniature Mongols have 21 completed of the 40+ figures I need to paint
Since I was less than halfway through the painting of my Mongol army, I figured the challenge was still a a ways off. Much to my surprise, it actually occurred on my birthday last month (Feb. 21). Graham of Graham's Wargame Vault invited me to play a game against him on Zoom. He's in the U.K., and I had interviewed him recently for Saga Ohio about one of his favorite armies, the Norse-Gaels. We had talked about doing a Zoom game then, and he reached out to me a few weeks ago to set it up. We picked Monday, Feb. 21, which I had off from school for President's Day.

    A screenshot of Graham's and my deployment from his YouTube video (Mongols at top)
Joining Graham was his friend and boon Saga companion Wayne. He would roll my dice, move my troops, and offer tactical advice. The banter between Wayne and Graham in their YouTube recordings of their games always keeps me chuckling, so I was looking forward to joining in the razzing back and forth. They both have a great sense of humor, so I was sure it would be a lot of fun. 

The game lived up to my expectations on all levels. Controlling the Mongols was difficult. There are so many "moving parts" with learning a new army's battle board. The advanced Saga abilities interact in many unique ways and even simply the sequencing of which abilities you want to use when and in what order can take awhile to master. So much more so in my first game! I did have the advantage of recently interviewing Chicago Saga player Terry Doner about his Mongols, and we had talked about this sequencing quite a bit in my podcast. In addition, I had the challenge of seeing the board in two dimensions on a laptop screen. I know I asked Wayne a number of times to measure things for me during our game.

    Graham sets up a tray so that viewers can watch the dice rolls and cheer or groan along with him
The game was a blast, of course, with groans and cheers for the die rolls. Graham's rolling started out hot but was eclipsed partway through by Wayne's run of a number of great rolls. There was a turning point when a 4-man unit of Graham's Baltic crusader mounted hearthguard charged a unit of my mounted warriors. Wayne saved above average against their attacks then proceeded to kill 3 of the 4 on my counter-strike. From that point on, Genghis Mike and Kettle Drummer Wayne took over the battle. We even eschewed my final turn of the game, as it was obvious the Mongols were going to come out on top.

Apparently, Graham enjoyed the banter and tactical discussion enough to not edit it down to fit one episode. He uploaded our game in two parts. I encourage everyone to check it out. Graham does a nice job on his YouTube uploads of his Saga games. See if you can spot when the momentum shifted in my favor! Thanks Graham and Wayne for a great birthday present of the transatlantic Saga game!!

I had not commanded Mongols before, but I had interviewed veteran players about them on Saga Ohio

Here are the links to watch the game:

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Mongols & New Objective Markers to Desecrate

    My latest batch of 5 Mongol light cavalry in 28mm from Curteys Miniatures
 Progress on my Mongol horde is moving at a very un-Mongol like pace. I just finished off a batch of five light cavalry that has been on my painting desk for at least three weeks, I swear. I need to paint 32 figures of Mongol "warriors" for my 6-point Saga army (that's not counting the six heavy cavalry "hearthguard," the Kettle Drummer's stand, and the Warlord's stand. After doing the first two batches in groups of eight, I thought I would do the remaining 16 figures in three separate batches. Thus, my group of five figures that seemed to take every bit as long as the eights did! Maybe it was a bad call, but it is better than burning out, I guess.

    More Mongol horsemen for my next Saga army, which is progressing at a very un-Mongol like pace!
One of the great things about the 28mm Curteys miniatures I bought for my Mongol army is the sheer variety of poses. That helps keeps it interesting and different. Four of these five figures were all armed with hand weapons instead of bows, and the fifth had a horn. I start off painting the horses, as usual, referring to the horse chart that I use to ensure variety and a bit of realism in my paint jobs. I finally got smart and began marking on the paper which ones I've used so I don't have to agonize over which styles of horse colorings that I have painted already. I liked how these horses turned out, but I was perhaps a little heavy on the brown tones. I did decide to epoxy the riders onto the base first before priming or painting them. I know I was debating on which course of action to take in one of my previous blog posts.

    I am not sure the batch of 5 figs went that much faster than my previous batches of 8!
I am painting my Mongols up in kind of mid-empire phase, when they have conquered part of China and have access to colorful silks. This allows me to choose from a wide variety of pastels or a mix of bright and darker hues. I continue to use the Micron pens for most of the decoration on the robes, but I do brush paint an occasional one. If it is just a border with dots or something like that, it is actually easier to do it with a paint brush than a pen. The pens excel when doing patterns or swirls or a series of dots. I also use the pens for fine details on shields now. No tattoos in the Mongol army, of course, but from now on, any miniature that requires tattoos will definitely be done using the Micron pens!

    A Mongol warrior gallops past a scratch-build shrine (Objective marker for Saga)
In the background of these pictures are my new Objective Markers for scenarios of Saga -- the miniatures rules I am using for my games. Some scenarios require players to destroy an objective marker in the opponent's area (for example, "Desecration" from Book of Battles). Sure, I could use the treasure chest or animals I have painted up, but that doesn't seem to fit the theme of the scenario as well. You want to destroy it, after all -- not snatch it up and steal it! So, I decided to paint up some religious shrines, statues, or whatever to make something more "desecratable"! I will probably do another batch like this soon, since these came out well, I think. 

    How's the army progressing? A group shot of all 21 of my 28mm Mongols painted so far
The statue of the Greek or Roman god is from the Reaper Ruined Temple terrain box that I bought at the Guardtower East. I decided NOT to glue the statue into place, rationalizing it would take up space the miniatures may need in a game. The two rather demonic (or pagan?) looking ones are from the Reaper Bones Harrowgate Shrines pack that I also bought at the local store. The last two were scratch built using various Hirst Arts stone blocks leftover from previous projects (thanks again, Zeke!) and a random Celtic cross I'd found a craft store long ago.

The Objective Markers are on 1.5" wooden discs from Hobby Lobby. I purchased metallic base bottoms from Litko Enterprises to stick to the bottom of them. I spray painted them black, then applied a 50/50 mix of water and craft black paint to them to sink into all the crevices. Then I gave them a couple progressively lighter shades of gray (not quite 50) dry brushing, flocked them, and voila! Done in little to no time at all! I always like to make purchases at the local stores when we have our game days at them, so it is satisfying to get these recent purchases based up and ready for the tabletop.

For my next batch of miniatures, I am taking a quick break from Mongols to do another batch of post-Apocalyptic figures. As mentioned in a a previous post, I may have found a rule set to try out in lieu of writing my own. We usually have six players on Sunday nights, so I need at least one more team. So, look for more updates soon!

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Eastern Princes Smashing Debut in Saga

    Jenny's new Saga army, Eastern Princes, charge into battle attempting to ride down Karen's Vikings
With a Saga tournament at Game Table Adventures the day before, we were not expecting a big turnout for our monthly Saga Sunday at Guardtower East. We had at least half a dozen who said they were unable to make it to the tourney but were interested in playing on our normal day, so we kept the day on the schedule. As it turned out, we had seven people show up.

    Jenny's Eastern Princes, bottom, face off against Karen's hearthguard-heavy Viking army
Jenny T was debuting her brand new army - Eastern Princes from Age of Crusades. Karen volunteered to take them on with her Vikings. Jenny and Karen decided to do the standard Clash of Warlords so that Jenny could focus on learning her new battle board without worrying about scenario conditions. Karen was showing off her brand new warlord figure that Dave E had painted up for her. It was a female warlord with a bird of prey perched on her upraised arm. Very cool figure conversion!

    Karen's female warlord figure was a conversion created and painted by Dave E
Although she stumbled on an advanced Saga ability or two, Jenny picked up using her new army very quickly. She ended up wiping out all of Karen's Vikings except for her warlord. She particularly liked Shooting ability called Crossfire which causes the opponent to reroll successful armor saves vs. shooting. That, and Ad Nauseum was another favorite of hers which gave one reroll of a melee miss for each successful hit. Jenny admitted her dice were hot in the beginning, but cooled off a bit towards the end. Jenny ended up winning the battle, 29-15, in a bloody scrum that saw lots of casualties. 

    Karen's warlord makes her last stand with her berserkers against Jenny's overwhelming numbers
On the table next to Jenny and Karen, Mike S squared off against his son, Jason. Mike was playing his Vikings while Jason had borrowed his Dad's Carthaginian army. They were playing Battle of Heroes (Chaos version). The battle saw them fighting across the width of the battlefield as each deployed on a side edge. Each was winning on the opponent's left. The Vikings eliminated the mounted right wing of the Carthaginians, while Jason whittled away at his dad's troops across the board. 

    Jenny and Karen square off in the foreground, while Mike and Jason battle in the background
Jason's elephant never got into the fray as the game ended early due to a die roll after 5 turns. Father and son counted up points and it turned out to be a 15-15 tie. Both said it was a good game, and Mike felt if it had gone one more turn he would have won. Jason would likely have disagreed, though!

    Jason S's Carthaginians, left, deploy for battle against Mike S's Viking warband
The third game of the day saw Lee P's Milites Christi waging battle against Dave E's Romans from the Age of Invasions book. I was watching and taking pictures, due to the odd number, so I paid close attention to this battle. I had just interviewed Lee for my Saga Ohio podcast (Episode 22) the weekend before. I wanted to see how his army performed in battle.

    Close up of Jason's Carthaginians and their shields
Things didn't start off well as he sent his 8-man mounted knight unit on a sweeping maneuver on the right wing against the legionary warrior unit that guarded Dave's left. Dave's dice were super-hot and the double strength hearthguard unit were repulsed by the lowly warrior unit. On his turn, Dave counter-attacked with Barratus and killed six of the eight knights, losing only three legionaries. Once again, Dave's dice were hot and things looked bleak for the Knights of St. John.

    The heart of the Roman battleline - two units of legionary warriors flank 8 hearthguard foot
Lee was able to pull the remaining two knights back behind the battleline so that they would continue to generate Saga dice. His crossbow tried to whittle away at the victorious legionaries, but couldn't seem to land hits consistently. As the Roman legion's battleline advanced, Lee had some serious ground to make up to be able to pull off a victory. In our interview, he admitted he likes to let opponent's come to him and use the counter-punch as his main blow.

    Towards the end of the battle, Knights of St. John sergeants charge Roman legionaries

Dave obliged and brought in his own right wing. Both his mounted hearthguard unit and a legionary warrior unit set up and charged in for successive attacks against a single 8-man warrior unit of Hospitaller sergeants. Lee had his battle board set up perfectly, closed ranks, and played Lions of War against the charging mounted legionaries. They drove them off, killing one and suffering no casualties. The Roman infantry were next, and they were also driven off at the cost of only one sergeant. Two legionaries fell, and it appeared the dice may be getting ready to swing in Lee's favor.

    The Knights of St. John's Grand Master even got into the battle, charging Roman Palatina elites
Lee's counter-punch proved as effective as he'd said in our interview, as the mounted troops were destroyed and the foot legionaries cut down to two figures remaining. Dave was relentless, though. He kept advancing, charging with fresh units of warriors or legionaries. The Hospitallers were a rock on defense, though. They survived the legion's blows, and their return blows whittled down the enemy's numbers. I'm not sure Dave realized that he was actually playing into Lee's strategy by charging him when he had Lion's of War and Beaucamp queued up.

    Another look at the father-son struggle between Jason and Mike, as their battlelines prepare to clash
The battle ground on, with both warlords getting involved, but the Knights of St. John continuing to hold the upper hand. In the end, Lee had not only made up the lost ground from turn 1, but triumphed fairly comfortably, 26-13. They had been playing Clash of Warlords, with the Grand Master of the Order winning the struggle despite his early losses.

Mike and Jenny offered to play another game so I could get one in, but none of the others could stay. So, I declined, and we called it a day early on. Hopefully, now that all the tournaments are done for awhile we can start to get our normal size turnouts at our game days. Our next game day is in Beavercreek, OH, at the Dragons Guildhall on March 20. Join us there for more Saga fun!

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Back to the "old place" for Old West Miniatures

    The balcony of Andy's MDF Saloon was where Mike W's "Gamblers" set up to gun down all comers
It had been awhile since we did miniatures gaming on Sunday night at our regular spot (which I call Wallace's Brewpub). With Covid dialing down, host Mike W felt good about us gaming in persons again at his place. His basement is spacious, well-lit and includes two of his home brews on tap -- so, I missed gaming there for more reasons than the camaraderie! 

    Joel's gang set up a couple doors down from the saloon in Andy's Old Western town
The game for the night was Old West miniatures, run by Andy S. He's been collecting buildings for 28mm Old West and has a good selection of miniatures already painted up. We kind of nudged him into running a bit earlier than he was planning. Keith promised he'd bring along terrain to supplement what Andy had so far, so the slight arm twist worked. Andy set up a very intro level scenario with each of us controlling three figures from a faction -- townsfolk, in my case. Mike W played the Gamblers (or as Joel called them, the professional assassins!), and Mike S the Ranchers. Now that I am writing my report, I don't remember what Joel and Keith's factions were called! Andy had given figures the weapons the miniature had cast on and a skill for one or two of the miniatures in the faction. Everyone was basically equal, though.

    The last mistake Mike S's Rancher made was peeking around the door to shoot at the Gamblers!
We talked about it and decided to have Andy secretly write who each faction had a score to settle with. Two of the other four opponents were written on your roster, and my Townsfolk were supposed to go after Mike S's Ranchers and Mike W's Gamblers. This didn't necessarily mean they were out to get me, though. We had no idea who was gunning for who. In the end, the only other faction I ended up shooting at was Keith's because it seemed obvious to me that he was coming after me. Mike S's faction wasn't deployed far from mine, but he went out of the other entrance of the barn onto the main street, fairly far away from Ma, Pa, and Jeb's house my figures were deployed in (I felt I had to name them!).

    Another dead Rancher - this one the lone figure killed by accumulating three wounds
The main street was the location of the Swingle Saloon (yes, Andy had the MDF sign made for him!). Upstairs, the Gamblers were deployed and immediately stepped out onto the balcony and began blazing away at Mike S's Ranchers. Mike earned his "assassin" nickname honestly, quickly taking out two of Mike S's figures. Andy was running Fistful of Lead rules, which are a fast, beer and pretzels set. When you hit an opponent's figure with a shot, you roll another 1d10. On a 1-5, you pin the enemy (which they have to roll to recover from on their turn). On a 6-8 you wound them (three wounds and you're dead). On a 9-10, they're killed immediately. Want to guess what Mike W was rolling a LOT of...??

    Jeb peers around the family home sensing trouble as furtive shapes are seen moving his way
I thought the rules worked out well, but I was a little bothered by the high amount of insta-kills that we had. What's the point of having a rules mechanic where you take three wounds if all but one of the figures gunned down were killed by a roll of 9-10? I think the rules show good potential for a quick skirmish, but I was a tad concerned whether this was a die rolling anomaly for the evening or how most games of Fistful of Lead progress. Ever the wiseacre, Keith replied to my comment that it was an anomaly, kind of like the way I roll dice but in reverse!

    Poor Ma...she spent the entire game dashing around trying to draw a bead on someone but never did
On my turns, I sent Jeb and Ma to sneak alongside or through the buildings to get an eyeball on the action in the main street. By the time we got close, most of the Ranchers lay bleeding in the street and the Gamblers had pulled back inside the building from the balcony. Two of Keith's figures were headed my way, so I pulled Jeb back to help Pa. Pa was my "Deadeye," but I think Andy meant to write "cross-eyed." As Keith had mentioned, my die rolling was poor and Pa's shots were going alarmingly awry. Keith felt so confident that he could rush up on Walleye Vision Pa that he ran right up to the first story window of Pa's house. Pa dashed downstairs (without falling) and blazed away through the window (pronounced "winnder"). To everyone's shock, Keith's gunfighter fell dead. I theorized that the distortion of the window pane meant Pa hit where he wasn't aiming and actually nailed the guy. With an "immediate kill," of course, as the theme was for the night.

    "Walleye Vision" Pa finally hits something -- one of Keith's gunfighters through the window
That was most of my action. Ma was having a hard time getting into position to take a shot and ended up never firing the entire game. Jeb fired once and missed -- proving that he was his father's son. In other action, Keith traded gunfire with Joel for most of the evening with (I believe) each losing one. Keith had deployed in the Gentleman's Club, and we assumed when his remaining guy withdrew from the fight, it was actually his "turn." He put away his pistol and pulled out his...well, you can figure out where our banter was headed.

    Another look at "Swingle's Saloon" as the action unfolds, and guns begin to blaze away
I think everyone enjoyed the game. It was great to be back together pushing minis across the tabletop and rolling dice. I can normally take or leave Western games (not my favorite type of movie either), but Fistful of Lead is quick and simple. I like that there is enough chrome to customize figures and give them some personality. I will probably end up buying the PDF from Wargame Vault, just so I can tinker with them, too. I have been wanting to find something to play some beer and pretzels Pulp style games with, and these may work. We'll see. Hopefully, we will also see if the immediate kills were an anomaly or if that is indeed how the rules play out. It would be easy enough to adjust the rolls down to 6-9 is wounded, and only a 10 is a kill.

    These were the rules we used for the evening and they provided a fun, fast game
In the meantime, it gives me fresh incentive to work some more on my post-Apocalyptic rules. I even came home Sunday night and fished through my drawer of unpainted lead and pull out the figures for the next faction I plan to paint up. So, maybe look for those soon on here, along with another batch of Saga Mongol cavalry that is nearing completion!